AW: Hello! Zanne hear! I finally finished it! YAY! Jumps and Claps! It took me forever to put together the end, you know, screwing all the little nick-knacks! Very hard! I hope you all enjoy it! How knows, maybe I'll write a sequel… Mha-ha-hah! I cackle evilly as I creep into a dark corner…

Chapter

7

Endings

She sat watching the fire as it snapped and sizzled. There was no other natural light in the room and as the evening outside deepened; a slight chill made the fire her only source of warmth as well, for she felt no warmth inside. She felt hallow and alone, frightened and worried. They had not bothered her since the noon hours, when Jaken, leading a band of mindless servants, came by to check on her and bring some food. He'd sat by until it became obvious she would not eat, threatened her for a minute about pouting, and then left to find Sessho-Maru to report her insolence.

She didn't care. She figured that despite what he'd said that morning, Sessho-Maru was not going to ever allow her to go home, no matter how she behaved, so she might as well do as she pleased, and if he killed her in response, so be it.

At least you'd be with Shippo... she thought. At one point earlier, while Jaken was overseeing treatment for her hand, he'd taunted her with information about the kitsune cub to get her to cooperate. He'd waited until the creatures that worked on her hand, a cross between a leech and a snail, had finished what they could before cruelly stating he had the cub beat to death. She'd raged at him, throwing pillows, her shoes, and nearby objects until her voice was scratchy and she'd exhausted herself. The entire time he'd smiled in an extremely evil way, dodging her anger and projectiles, then laughing and promising to fetch her bloody kitsune pelt.

Her eyes closed at the dizzying feeling of tears that couldn't fall because they'd all been cried already. The pain inside her, part grief for her lost companion and part intense hunger, caused her to crumple in a ball before the fire. She still faced it but was no longer feeling it. Squirming on the plush rug, she gripped her stomach, coughing and then dry-heaving in her hysterics and fear. It was a miserable condition to be in and almost as miserable to watch.

From shadows near the balcony door, he'd been observing his brother's woman since it was dark enough for one to go undetected. She'd never once looked away from the fire after regaining her composure, or at least he had to assume so since he'd only come to check on her after Jaken's report that she wouldn't eat. It was an annoying game she played and dangerous to guess that he would play also.

At first he'd thought perhaps her appetite had been lost in reaction to the bah'leres, the snail-like parasite demons he'd acquired from a far off desert kingdom. The slimy little creatures had powerful saliva that would heal bones, purify poison, and even seal skin without a scar. He'd not worried about the wound he'd given her earlier in the morning because after a couple of sessions with the bah'leres she'd be all healed, but her loss of interest in eating was a concern. He knew it was not normal and not born of dislike for the food he had provided.

He'd gone to such a sizable amount of trouble to obtain her that death to starvation was not an option. He'd warned her to behave if she ever wanted to go home and watching her tense and curled form before the fire, he realized he might just have to reinforce the truth to his statement. Perhaps give her another cut to show he meant business.

Kagome could not sense one demon in particular when she was surrounded by so many. Even the walls seemed to be demonic, breathing and watching her at all times, and producing a smothering, evil aura that seemed to be kept at bay by the firelight. Sessho-Maru was able to walk up to within two feet of her before she realized he was there, but even the threat he posed was not enough to move her.

Maybe he'll kill you... an optimistic voice in her head whispered. She gripped her stomach a little tighter and waited.

"Get up," he commanded. She didn't move but rather coughed a little and seemed to tighten the ball she lay in. A hot anger, similar to the one he'd exhibited this morning, filled his head and caused his next statement to come out on a growl. "I am not telling you twice, human."

Kagome's rebellious mind screamed at her to stand and kick the son of a bitch (literally) but she quieted herself, not letting the fear or adrenaline take over. If she waited a moment more he would go into a rage, he would lose control as he had that morning and take his anger out on her. He would become the killer she knew him to be. A tiny prickle of fear came into her then.

Please be quick, please kill me quickly...

Behind her Sessho-Maru also had to calm himself. Though she did not know it, he was closer to giving in to that particular breed of darkness that could destroy a demon as well as those around him, than either one wanted to know. Controlling his breath, Sessho-Maru came into himself again, and glared down at the source of his frustration. He would not bend over and grab her, he would not tell her again or threaten her, and he defiantly would not yield to her. If he had to stand there all night she would rise on her own and submit to him or he would kill her where she lay. The bitch might mean something to his brother but she meant nothing to him, curious interest or not.

Mayhap that is what she wants, the voice that had warned him earlier whispered. She wants to die, to escape you in a way you cannot follow. He smiled malevolently. Ahh, but I can follow.

"If you are hoping that I will kill you, release you from this," he gestured around the room, "then perhaps you would be interested to know I can also bring you back." He did not know if the Tenseiga would work on starvation, as he had not been sure it would work when he was dragging her through that snow storm and she collapsed in the cold, but she stirred at his feet, raising her head and turning it slightly to be able to hear him better. His smile curved and disappeared.

Checkmate, bitch

Kagome heard him move away and because she was more afraid of what he meant but wouldn't say than of what he represented physically, she pushed herself up and turned to face him. The fear she'd been keeping at bay washed over her then. He would do it too; he would kill her, torture her, and then work his demon magic and bring her back. She would know what it felt like to be torn limb from limb, to be whipped to death, or worst of all, to feel his poison as it passed through her body, destroying delicate tissue as it went, choking her from the inside out. She was suddenly very afraid.

His imposing figure, a dark shadow beyond the reach of the fire's light, moved to a table set with the meals she hadn't touched and sat. He had chosen the side of the table where there was little light, or was it he brought the darkness with him like a comfortable cloak. Either way Kagome found herself able to see only the fire reflecting in his eyes, which were almost the same color as Inu-Yasha's, only a bit more gold. They narrowed at her hesitation. The look boiled the adrenaline in her system, prompting her to move.

Because her fear was greater than her willpower to rebel, she gathered her strength and made a conscious effort to contain her emotions. Dragging her knees under her body, Kagome tried to stand twice but found that the self-imposed fast had weakened her considerably. Thinking back she realized it had been since noon the previous day since her last meal. Hating that she suddenly wanted to eat something, Kagome crawled to where Sessho-Maru waited at the table. She sat opposite him, not knowing what to do next, shivering slightly from exhaustion and terror.

Had he not been there she would have begun her meal. Pouring now cold tea and buttering a slightly stale bread cake, she might have even tested the soup, but the intimidating presence of the full-blooded demon that still starred at her through narrowed eyes kept her from moving. It was like facing off with a viper, waiting for the moment it would strike and kill and it froze her to the spot.

Sessho-Maru finally looked away from her; focusing past her form to the servants that stood, stone statues in a world of movement, awaiting a command. He could call them with a look, order them with a thought, and destroy them in a wink. Deciding that might be a way to intimidate his brother's female, should she become overly troublesome, he called to his minions to bring a fresh meal.

He focused intently on the closest one, shoving aside its natural, defensive reaction and plunging into its mind. The gray haziness was exactly as it should be, without a single independent thought. The creature stopped in its tracks and seemed to wait patiently for his order.

Kagome turned at the sound of drapes shifting behind her and watched as three servants that she had not known were there left the room. Three more approached and began gathering the dishes of untouched food that had been left on the table, but the one who'd been closest in approach, stood away, as though listening to something. Once the intricate tile pattern of the tabletop was again visible the other two took their burden and left.

"Watch," he said in a voice laced with amusement. Casting an uncertain glance in his direction, Kagome turned to watch the wraith.

Sessho-Maru began funneling psychic energy into the creature's head. He gave it one order after another, sending it into a reeling confusion, and then began injecting emotions. These servants, who his father had found and tamed many years ago, were natural killers fiercer than Sessho-Maru could ever be, or imagine being. They feasted telepathically on the emotions, sucking their prey dry before feasting on the flesh. It was because they had no feelings that they were so susceptible to them. But too much of anything could kill, and now, as Kagome watched, the wraith began to scream silently, holding its head as though preventing it from blowing-up. It was in agony, openly defying its master and fighting the telepathic onslaught.

Kagome almost got to her feet when the creature went down on its knees. It was near enough to the light that she could not see what it truly looked like. Pale gray skin was stretched tight over the bone of its abnormally round, bald head. Though mildly humanoid in build, there was nothing human, or demon, about its face. Two huge eyes, normally reflecting a mild pink color, were burning blood red, and its mouth was wider than any normal beast. Row upon row of tiny, pointed teeth, arranged like a shark's, was visible to her when it opened its mouth. The silent screams that wracked its body with tension sent shivers through her own body, as though her mind could sense the agony her ears could not discern.

When it stumbled toward her another step, Kagome did move. She scooted around the table and back towards the balcony door. The kimono Sessho-Maru had had her dressed in was too big and she tripped her self on the long material. Falling back away from the still approaching wraith, she landed on something surprisingly soft. She felt it move, wind around her waist, and pull her back.

Sessho-Maru's concentration was almost shattered when she bumped into him. He never broke eye contact with the wraith, however, since it would come at them with a vengeance if he released it now. He wanted to scare her but not to the point of indifference. His tail was shielding him against her back but if the wraith continued to fight, to come at them, it would reach her first. Careful to protect his property, Sessho-Maru wound his tail around her waist and shoulders, pulling her close to him. Her head came to rest against his shoulder, her hands grasping at his tail as though it was a lifeline.

Before them the wraith gasped as its chest was contracted from within. Sessho-Maru squeezed its mind again, pushing against the inner barrier that kept the creature alive, that part of the mind where its subconscious resided. He broke into its soul or at least that twisted and evil thing that was supposed to be its soul, and directly fed it the emotion it so craved. It was specifically designed to be too much, to overdose the wraith.

Kagome watched the creature make a final attempt to reach them before crumpling to the floor. It wrapped itself in a tight ball, tearing at its chest as though to remove its own heart. Behind her, Sessho-Maru snickered and squeezed her to him a little tighter. She was snug against him and not at all uncomfortable, except that the being behind her was obviously much more dangerous than she'd originally thought. The wraith's body jerked convulsively and then went still.

The only motion in the room was from the fire.

She waited tensely for him to say something, to tell her what he wanted or what would become of her, but only the fire answered her unspoken questions. Its crackling and hissing tempted her to return, to sit in its warmth and keep it company as it would her. Sessho-Maru's even breathes pressed against her back but it did not calm her as the fire had done. She cast a desperate look its way, the bright green of a particularly intense flame catching her eye. It reminded her of Fox Fire.

Sessho-Maru, too, turned to the fire. He could feel it more that she, his fur tingling beneath his clothes whenever a stray flame flickered enough to cast its light on him. Its orange glow was seductive in a way no physical lover could be and coupled with the strange, musky scent of his brother's woman, he began to feel his instinctual body stirring. She was warm next to him; her body fitting his in a way too right to be right. He was demon and her human, there should be no attraction, no feeling to protect and comfort. He pushed the unusual thoughts from his mind as he released her. She didn't move at first but a slight push from his tail had her crawling to her end of the table. Inching past the cooling body, she went past the table and began to move back to the fire.

"SIT," he shouted, the turmoil inside him momentarily getting the better of his control.

Kagome starred directly into his face before complying. She'd never been sat before, but guessed this would be a prudent time to try it.

When he had her under control again, he nodded towards the body, his voice dripping venom when he spoke. "That will be the first way you die."

She swallowed.

He held her gaze for a long minute, carefully searching her psyche for whatever it was that had set him off. Whereas the wraith's head was full of gray fuzz, hers was full of color. She was fighting a black fear that appeared as streaks over the healthy green calm of her being, with occasional bursts of red excitement that must be what gave her the courage to face him. There were other emotions too; light blue and violet sorrow, vibrant green and yellow for hope, and a strange sparkling gold, almost bronze really, that was her inner passion. It was the most beautiful and attracted his interest intensely. Yet the closer he got, the farther away it appeared, and when he sent a telepathic line to capture the glittering illusion, it disappeared completely.

Sessho-Maru's concentration was interrupted when his nose caught the aroma of miso soup, fresh brewed tea, and cinnamon buns. Across the table it took the girl a few extra moments to come out of his mental spell and smell the approaching meal; she jumped towards the fire, her eyes wide with fear, when the remaining wraiths suddenly materialized from the darkness and began placing the meal before them.

They reset the dish pattern, a pot of tea and carafe of sake the last to be arranged. With no acknowledgement from their master, the beings gathered the body of their fellow servant and returned to their positions, a total of five silent, lifeless soldiers guarding the bedroom door. If Kagome had turned to look she would have seen them enjoying a meal of their comrade.

Though Sessho-Maru had been served, he had no intention of eating. The food was not something he had ever tried before, being demon, and though he occasionally had sake, the drink held no interest for him right now. He needed to find out what power the girl had that she'd been able to excite him that morning, to send his mind into such a fury that he had actually lost control for a second, before he indulged in any drink that even for demons could dull the wits.

Across the table once again, Kagome held her head bowed, staring at the steaming bowl of soup before her. As a woman, it was her place to pour the tea and prepare Sessho-Maru's meal for him. She hated the thought of serving him, of submitting to him. In a moment of uncertainty she raised her head, just to check if he was even still watching her, and found her eyes lock to his.

There was concern in those two golden pools, the type one might have for a spouse or troubled friend. It changed as she watched to confusion, then sadness, and insecurity. He was studying her all the while, his face carefully neutral, but his eyes speaking volumes as she watched emotion after emotion flash into them. Time and again though, Sessho-Maru's eyes looked upon her with concern. She twisted her hands beneath the table, worry like she'd felt when she had told her story to Kaede and the others filled her chest. She'd seen emotion in him before.

She glanced at the table, easily able to imagine his rage and that he could fling the table crashing towards the fireplace to come after her. She no longer had any false illusions about the depth of his power, his strength. Hunching her shoulders, Kagome tried to make herself as little as possible. Her heart began racing as the moments passed and it became a conscious effort on her part to contain the panic that pricked at her mind.

"Eat," he stated simply, though he could easily sense her distress.

Kagome felt the panic and fear take over. Without thinking, really, she reached for the cups and teapot, pouring his first and then her own. She set the pot down in the center of the table, the handle in her direction so she could reach it, should more be needed. Next she took up the sake carafe and offered it, eyes downcast, to him.

Sessho-Maru starred at her, shock and confusion evident in his expression though she did not look up to meet his gaze. She sat frozen, the sake in her hands, waiting for him to accept or refuse it. And she had poured the tea for him. No one had ever done that, the main reason behind why he'd never tried the stuff. He had not expected courtesy, even with her scared beyond reason. Recomposing his appearance, the demon lifted his ornate sake cup, holding it out for her to fill. He noticed that she shook slightly as the warmed liquid was served.

He could tell the instant she realized what she'd just done. Kagome froze, the carafe half way between the two of them, and looked directly at him, her blue-gray eyes wide with shock. Sessho-Maru was tempted to smile, to show her that he was pleased, but instead lifted his cup in toast then sipped the sake. The warm drink coated his throat, loosening the knots in his mind and calming him slightly. He tipped the cup back and drained it, feeling the effects immediately as the potent fluid tingled on his tongue and relaxed him.

With controlled and conservative motions, he held the cup out again, asking for a second serving. She hesitated a moment then filled it, only half way he noticed, before setting the carafe next to the tea pot and resettling herself at her place. He set his cup on the table, the sake this time untouched, and watched her dine. Her movements told him she was awkward eating while he sat and watched. His annoyance at her from earlier, when she'd sat starving before the fire, had dissipated, and Sessho-Maru was amazed to realize he wanted her to be comfortable, to act without reservation or hesitation in his presence. He wanted her to be easy in his company and that fact set his mind reeling.

Why should it matter, the voice in his head queried. She's human and below you fool. Showing compassion or even the slightest weakness at all will cause her to become unmanageable. He mentally shrugged, finding he enjoyed the way orange firelight flickered red in her hair. She's Inu-Yasha's..., the voice whispered. Rage flooded Sessho-Maru's mind and it took him a couple of moments to realize it was jealousy driven. The stunning discovery fueled his anger further towards that breaking point which he had already crossed once that evening.

Kagome had not heard Sessho-Maru move, had not noticed his shadow shifting in any way, but she knew he was suddenly upset, angered even. She had come to recognize his demon presence as a chill that crawled down her spine. When he was calm, as he had been while she poured his second cup of sake, the chill was more of a warm caress. It had started at her neck and heated her insides, creating a placid and relaxing sensation that could lull even the fiercest of tempers. It was not so now.

Her appetite lost, Kagome placed her hands in her lap but dared a look at Sessho-Maru. His previously appearance was a lost thing of the past; only molten gold and austere features met her gaze.

"Why did you not fight me that first night?" Sessho-Maru asked in clipped tones, his anger still not quite contained. He needed to know if it was her unusual reaction to him that currently attracted him to her or if there was something else.

Kagome shied, half trying to remember the details of that night, and half out of contempt for him. When it became obvious that she was not going to answer, the demon lord actually felt another notch of patience slip away.

Amazing, he said to himself, she is actually managing to infuriate me. Knowing he needed to contain himself before his demon rage could be ignited by this pathetic excuse for a living being Sessho-Maru averted his gaze to the now dying fire.

As the embers ebbed a chilled breeze fought its way into the room. It brought full darkness with it, all the smells and sounds of the world beyond this room preparing for rest, for the hunt, for death. It thrilled him to know out there, this night, or perhaps this very moment, there would be bloodshed and suffering. She shivered, not unlike she had that night the cold had almost gotten her. Remembering it now, he wondered why he hadn't let her freeze; what it was that had compelled him to save her. A remembrance of the bronze glitter in her emotions answered that question. Perhaps…

Kagome became less and less aware of her immediate surrounds as the night began to fill the room. It was a thick, choking mass of evil energy that radiated from the land beyond the balcony, an evil the firelight had kept at bay. She had never felt such a powerful force of darkness, not even in Naraku's presence. It was nauseating and not the least bit depressing. She could feel it wrapping around her mind, seeping into her very core, and tempting her to join it. Pulling her towards a sharp edge.

A flash of gold before her eyes and slight pressure on her arm brought her back to her self. It was suddenly not so cold either, and intense warmth was tingling down her spine, giving her back the life she had been releasing. Bright flickers of white came in and out of focus calming the rapid beat of her heart and subduing a nagging fear she had not know was there. Closing her eyes, Kagome gave in to its protection and safety. She relaxed in the comfortable softness that surrounded her body, her last thoughts wondering if she was dead.

Sessho-Maru had been blocking and absorbing the negative energy that had drifted through the balcony door. It was a refreshing bath of his heritage, a cursed aura that was part of the castle's defenses. He loved the feel of it and used it to help put his troubled mind to rest. The girl was not that big a deal, once he tired of her he'd simply give her back and let her become his lust-born half brother's problem again.

He'd taken another deep breath, mentally relaxing the tenseness in his shoulders. Because she'd been so quite he had hazarded a look at her. Panic gripped him when he saw her so close to succumbing to the aura's power. Her entire body was relaxed and her skin color had faded to a pale, waxen shade. Her breathing was shallower than that night in the storm, and her lips were slowly becoming an iridescent blue. The darkness was absorbing her and feeding itself off her soul. He'd not thought about it previously being he lived with it every day.

Acting on instinct he'd commanded the servants mentally to close the balcony curtains and restart the fire, while he'd swung around the table and dragged her dead weight into his arms. The color of her skin was nothing compared to the feel of it, slimy and tainted by the evil aura that moment by moment drained her. He'd never thought he'd see the day when he'd curse the mechanism protecting his lair.

Pulling off his outer kimono, he wrapped her hastily in it and turned to the fire. Commanding his minions without consciously knowing it, pillows, more rugs, furs, and blankets were heaped and arranged before the revived flames. He sat down in the middle of it all, quickly whipping his tail around her, cradling the limp body in his arms.

Dread tightened around Sessho-Maru's stomach when it became evident she was not recovering. Unsure what to do, he scourged his memory for the remedy and key to the aura's inclusion. He and all his family had never feared the darkness because it gave strength to a full-blooded demon, but even Inu-Yasha and his fully mortal mother had not been affected by it. It did not touch blood relatives.

Realizing that was the answer, Sessho-Maru made a tight fit of his left hand, being sure to gouge the claws deep into his palm so he bled. He pulled the sleeve on her arm up and scratched into the undead skin, quickly grasping it with his wounded palm to prevent excess bleeding but allow for an exchange. The skin beneath his hand shimmered a sparkling black and the pallid color retreated, leaving the healthy pink flesh unmarred in its wake.

He shifted attention to her face where it rested against his left shoulder. As his blood seeped into her body, driving back the aura's taint he waited impatiently for her face to regain color, and her eyes to open. He really wanted to see her eyes again, those misty gateways to her mind that told him so much by only the color. The dull gray hue persisted in her face and he squeezed her arm, pushing his life into her.

Impatient with the rate at which his blood was circulating, Sessho-Maru dived into her mind, expecting to be overwhelmed by the color and movement of her psyche. There was color, but not nearly what he'd witnessed before. The vibrant colors seemed to have been subdued with an ashen milky gray. The aura had added another presence to her mind, a barrier that prevented him from touching her soul and bringing her back from death. This was defiantly something Tenseiga could not reverse.

It's not working fast enough; he realized when he tested the barrier again. The evil was leaving her body but at a pace that would destroy her. He had to cut her again, to send her another lifeline so she would not drown.

Coming out of his trance he studied her face, deciding on the best place to make another entry. Tipping her head back, he cradled her skull in his right hand, and being careful of how hard he bit, Sessho-Maru grazed a fang along her bottom lip, cutting deep enough to start a flow of blood. He quickly ran his tongue along his teeth, opening a wound of his own, and bent to capture her mouth. Pressing hard he could feel his own blood already in hers as it passed into him through the kiss.

There was also her taste. It was cleaner than he had expected, and certainly much more pleasant than any demon female he'd been with recently. He could also feel her power; the way it helped fuels the sensation of warmth that reclaimed her body and mended her soul. The color was back too, bursting in him, as he was sure it was doing in her. The bronze filled him, funneling through their kiss to fill him with her passion, her love. It gave him greater joy than he could ever imagine. It all climaxed inside them at the same time, pushing the aura out, and initiating her into his family.

When the final bit of the darkness was driven out, a searing hot spark jolted through his mind. For a moment Sessho-Maru gazed into her eyes, their vibrant blue sending a flood of relief through his body, before she withdrew from his kiss. She settled in his arms, gazing with thanks in her eyes before she relaxed and slept, Kagome's mind and body exhausted from the battle just fought.

He, too, felt the release of the darkness' presence in her. He called on it, though, to bring him strength. It infused his body and mingled with both his blood and hers, accepting the combination. She would be safe from the castle's defenses.

Cuddling his burden, not even bothering to question what had driven him to save her because he now understood, Sessho-Maru rose and carried her to the waiting box-futon. The feather mattress crinkled softly under its guest, a whispered welcome of warmth and peace. As Sessho-Maru laid her back, he drew his hand away from her arm, breaking their blood-link. His demon blood condensed and sealed the striped claw wounds across her arm. Examining her lip, he saw the same thing only that it was more securely healed.

Satisfied with it all, Sessho-Maru pulled the thick blankets and furs up over her body. Her even breathes and natural color assured him one last time before he turned and stepped away. Pausing, he looked back. The firelight stroked the soft skin of her cheek and he felt that familiar stirring, that curiosity. It blazed in his mind. Coming back to the bed he sat by her for a moment, gently stroking her face. His claws created a gruesome contrast with her beauty, causing a strange sensation of self-consciousness in him. It was a unique feeling and he was not certain exactly how to identify it until he caught himself wanting to wake her. His curious desire was back and in full bloom, jealousy of his brother pushing it into an obsession, if not more.

Sighing an exasperated breath, he pulled himself up and left the bed. Heading to his own rooms via the balcony, he informed her servants to keep a close vigil.

It had not been what he'd expected but the results were certainly pleasing. He could feel her inside him, part of him, and so now understood a little of what she was. Granted her body was human, but her soul was more powerful than any demon he'd ever met. She had the potential to destroy with more force and power than even Tetsusaiga, but also to create like his Tenseiga. She was an enigma of hopes and desires, to balance the very forces that kept him and Inu-Yasha at odds. She was their equal.

Massaging his temples to relieve the slight headache that was developing, Sessho-Maru silenced Jaken with a raised hand. The toad demon had not even drawn a breath enough to protest his master's lethargic mood by the time Sessho-Maru had reached his own bed. Too exhausted to care, he shed his clothing and climbed in, wrapping himself in both the available blankets and his angora-like tail.

He was asleep soon after, bronze clouds sparkling within his subconscious being.